Of What Use Is It?

As I look through my old books I tend to focus on the strange reality they present. I have spent hours looking through ‘facts’ of the past. The Earths core is solid, orange peels are a public safety hazard, you should never discuss hobbies at a diner party… these are the light side of my book collection. Segments easily removed from the context they were written and which show a comical contrast to today.

My encyclopedias from the 1920’s are both accurate and inaccurate portrayals of life at that time, these books were written for children and their families to learn about the world, they are intended as a complete view of the world and they include the sexism, racism, and colonial views of the people producing them. There is an assumption that the reader is a white child clear in the text. The images they create are true portrayals of what they wanted life to be at the time, but also show the biases influencing the writing, hinting that there are entire stories and lives that are never mentioned.

I am interested in knowledge. I love learning about the past and the assumptions these books make tells me a lot about the time they were written in, positive or negative.

Old textbooks are evidence of how children of the past were taught. I have met people who grew up reading “the book of knowledge”. We won’t know exactly what teachers were teaching in a classroom at any given time but we can reflect on the curriculum and resources they had access to. My set of encyclopedias was left in an elementary school in Victoria for 98 years, they were printed the year the school opened. I think they were likely used by the teachers.

I also have an additional set of encyclopedias from America in 1926. They are a different edition of the same book and as a result have content which differs slightly from the Canadian set. I have yet to research the difference in society between 1921 and 1926, it is something I plan to study further. Anecdotally I have noticed a trend of the Canadian books relying on colonial ideas, an article on the formation of the earth pauses several times to say that Canada is better than other parts of the world. In contrast the American text has the same article and it does not mention other countries or cultures, instead focusing on the formation of the earth through the lens of science and god. The Canadian book doesn’t mention god.

I feel that currently I have skimmed these books. I have not read all 18 volumes but I have looked at particular articles in depth. I plan to continue exploring the information and ideas of these books, as I recognize patterns and themes I will be able to focus my studying further.



Common Safety Rules

It is often said by someone I am sure that safety is of the utmost importance. As we sometimes forget even the most common safety rules in our lives I have compiled a list of well tested and useful safety tips and tricks.¹





Many Sudden Deaths Come By Water

There you are! Ready to endeavour to live a safer life.²

  1. All ‘tips and tricks’ are taken from the book Enquire Within Upon Everything and should be regarded with the knowledge that these were written in 1894 and may be subject to have changed in the interim.
  2. Further notes: I have not found an explanation as to the dangers of orange peels but one can assume they hold a similar danger as to banana peels. Do not follow the suggested cure for numbness, it will not work. And finally, Lucifer is the original name for a match.

UPDATE: There is indeed a long and well documented history of orange peels being dangerous to life and limb. For more information look to “The orange peel accounts” 

A Proper Dinner Party

Rules as suggested by ~Enquire Within Upon Everything~

Now hosting a dinner party can be stressful business. You have to organize invitations, food, entertainment and alert your family circle to the proper rules of etiquette expected at your gathering.

Or at least those are the steps involved if your dinner party is being held in London in 1894. But surely 1894 isn’t that far away from today? How much could have changed in dinner party etiquette since then?

To start: What is your family circle? It is simply the family and friends who you hold gatherings with every Friday night. It is suggested that you can save yourself some trouble by sending them these rules with their invitation.

Rule #1: Meetings should be made up of conversation, music, dancing, and card playing. They should take place between 7PM and 12AM.

  • This rule is clear, the only thing any of us do at a small dinner party is to dance and play cards until 12 AM sharp.

Rule #2: As gentlemen are allowed to “like the raven” wear only black suits for the whole year, women are to have the same privilege.

  • Ah, I see that the times may have changed more than I thought. This suggests that women can wear the same dress to multiple events, something that is unfortunately out of favour today.

Rule #3: Every guest should bring, if possible, a form of dance music (their voice or an instrument). They also should take it with them when they go.

Rule #4: Everyone capable of playing, dancing, or singing must preform for the group unless they have a medical certificate. (No medical excuse should last more than two weeks)

Rule #5: Anyone who can play or sing but is too shy should be kindly criticized and encouraged until they do so.

  • I have grouped these together as they address the classic problem of inviting your piano playing friend to a party only to have them refuse to play and then leave behind their piano. It’s happens to us all. If someone turns up at your party insisting they are ill and unable to sing you must insist they provide a doctors note, how else will you trust your close family friends?

Rule #6: To avoid breaking the bank on this party just provide cold meat, sandwiches, bread, cheese, butter, vegetables, fruits, coffee, and tea.

  • I can’t think of anything one would desire more than cold meat and apple slices at a dinner party.

Rule #7: Any toast or speeches must be planned in advance of the party to avoid everyone’s hopes of a secret engagement.

  • Any time you raise a glass to give a speech everyone assumes you are going to reveal a grand secret. You’ve gotten engaged. You are secretly married. Or it was the butler in the library who murdered the Count last Tuesday. Whatever your speech truly consists of it is much too stressful for all the other guests to have a series of surprise toasts.

And so ends our dinner party rules. Simply print out this list, perhaps adding your own rules, and include it in your next set of invitations.

As a bonus here are a few quotes of extra advice:

” Never appear in the drawing room without your boots”

“Always wear gloves:

“Hold your hat in your hand or lay it carefully beside you”

“Do not mix a summer bonnet with a winter dress”

“Avoid the extremes of fashion”

And finally “If you have a hobby, keep it to yourself”


A Pudding and A Salad Mixture

So you would like a lovely salad recipe? Well you have certainly come to a place with a recipe. Below is a simple salad mixture written clearly in nonsensical verse. All you must do is read the poem, figure out the measurements and ingredients, and voila you will have a bowl of salad. (Provided your definition of salad is mashed potatoes with egg)

After this salad continue reading for a pudding!

Salad Mixture


If you are struggling to traverse these instructions since phrases like “Quantity of salt”, “Once with vinegar”, and “Onion atoms” may have fallen out of use in the last 125 years, you will find a slightly more direct recipe below:

  1. Boil 2 large potatoes and mash them through a sieve.
  2. 1 spoon of mustard
  3. 2 pinches of salt
  4. 3 spoons of olive oil
  5. 1 spoon of vinegar
  6. 2 mashed hard boiled egg yolks
  7. A small amount of chopped onions
  8. 1 teaspoon of anchovy sauce

And there you have it, place all ingredients in a bowl and stir. The result will taste of potatoes, egg, and mustard (I did not put in the anchovy sauce as we did not have any anchovy sauce). The results are not bad!



Mother Eve’s Pudding


If you do not know the amount of eggs needed you must research how many pennies are in a shilling and deduce from there. If you do not have time for that I have included another list:

  1. 2 eggs
  2. 6 apples peeled and chopped
  3. 6 ounces of bread crumbs without crust
  4. 6 ounces of currants (I used blueberries)
  5. 6 ounces of sugar
  6. Some salt and nutmeg

Now, I will once again admit I didn’t follow their directions to the letter, I halved the recipe and did not let it boil for three hours. I also wish I had served it with butter.


The result of this recipe is not terrible, it is not quite a bread pudding and not quite anything else. All the ingredients on their own would be nice and I suspect if we had a different type of bread it may have tasted a bit more of dessert.


My dear friend who aided me in this venture is eager to attempt this recipe with slight adjustments to improve the look and taste.

Recipes from “Enquire Within Upon Everything” (1894)

Reflecting on the moon

This past month I have been comparing and contrasting the way various books explain the formation of the earth and moon. I finished gathering this information last week but was unable to decide on how to present the information. I didn’t want to simply write out everything as that would take a while, I had a lot of information.

As I have worked on this blog I have been trying new forms of technology where I can, I enjoy learning new mediums online, but I could not find one that matched my ideas. Finally I decided to forgo the technology aspect and draw/paint my information. This was the most work I have done for one of my posts in both the painting and the amount of time I spent gathering information. In the end I wrote explanations as well as the images, so a lot was put into the final post.

Unfortunately as I posted it the blog was erased and all that was left was the title. I enjoy using technology and I have seen first hand in my own schooling how valuable it can be. However, I am often nervous that things like this will happen, I saved the post several times and it did not stick. I want to use technology in cases when I works well with my goals, but I am aware that things put online are not always in my control. If I drop an assignment into a puddle that it something I can regret. If it is lost to the internet I can only start over, with more backups and twice the work. This time I will re-write my post on a document and so if something happens I can copy it back. This seems to defeat some of the convenience of blogging on a platform.

The Earth and The Moon

There have been many  theories as to how the earth and moon were formed. Here are a few possibilities from a few points in time.

  1. 1863 “Reasons Why: Physical Geography”


The first and oldest book does not mention the moon but offers two explanations of the earth’s core. It is either molten or solid (and full of tunnels). If molten they believe that the heat is left over from the formation of the earth. If the solid theory is true it would be chemical means melting the rock in tunnels. They do not explain what chemical means. A geologist apparently does not care about this information.

2. 1921 “The Book of Knowledge” (Canada)


In 1921 the solar system starts with a nebula. This nebula became hot and shrunk to become the sun. The earth is merely a small piece of the sun that cooled from a gas to a liquid and finally a solid. When it was liquid pieces spun off the surface to become the moon. The books shows that the core of the earth is a hot gas.

In this book they repeatedly mention that poets often refer to a nebula as “the great fire mist”. I have been unable to find any example of this in a poem so I wrote one. “Sat upon a summer lawn, I gazed into the great beyond, beyond the dark and falling dusk, was the fire mist of the universe”

3. 1926 “The Book of Knowledge” (America)


In 1926 the theory from 1921 remains with minor changes. The nebula no longer shrinks from heat but the forces of gravity. This book spends most of the chapter repeating what was written in the previous edition. At the end of the chapter is a paragraph which introduces the possibility of the Planetesimal theory. As explained by the book this theory is that the sun was originally the center of a nebula and the planets were the arms. The planets and moons grew by crashing into each other and space material. The earth did not start with a hot core but developed it over time through radioactive elements.

This book also mentions the poems about “fire mist” I still cannot find any.

4. 1931 “The wonder Book of Science”


This final book does not go into detail about the wonders of science. It shows the formation of the moon as pictured above and states that the earth was formed from the sun in the same manner.

The book shows that the earth has a solid core made up of stone, metal, and heavy elements. It takes a stance against humans making it to the moon, while describing exactly how we did it.

I find it interesting to see how information in these books goes back and forth. It is easy to imagine that all of our current knowledge was gathered one piece at a time and added to a growing pile of organised facts. That if someone suspected the world had a molten layer under the crust in 1863 that fact would continue through to today because we know it is true now.

But instead it is like a billion piece puzzle where the pieces keep going missing and some are from other puzzles and everyone is disagreeing on what the final picture is. Just because someone had a center piece while they were making the edge doesn’t mean it got placed until the puzzle filled out more.

Going Different Directions

Although I am mostly focusing on The Book of Knowledge I started this week by picking up “The Girl Guiding Book of Ideas” (1939), and it held a wonderful general knowledge quiz full of incomprehensible questions and answers. The questions are honestly unfair since they are completely out of the context of 1939. I decided the best thing to do was make an honestly unfair quiz out of a few of the questions.

After searching online and attempting to make a quiz twice I found a website that was simple to use and had enough free features to make a multiple choice quiz (proprofs quiz maker). The website does ask for your name but will accept random letters which I noted in my post. I added the multiple choice because the original questions are impossible to answer without options, for example:

“Why can you not make a good cup of tea at the top of a mountain?”

“Because the water boils at a lower temperature”

Along with making this quiz I have been collecting household hints from my books, particularly “How girls can help” the first Girl Guiding book (1912) and  “Enquire Within upon Everything” (1894) . And researching the Moon and Earth as explained by “The Book of Knowledge”(1921/1926) and “Reasons Why: Physical Geography” (1864).

All these different topics seem to lead me to multiple unrelated articles, as I open a book to find information on cleaning mirrors in 1894 and end up reading a poem about making salad. The past was a strange place and I am really enjoying such specific glances at it. I may at one point research further the world these books were published in, the outer society that influenced what was written and published, but the books themselves are also an answer to that question. They are an incomplete picture of the time they were made in, so once I have seen what picture my odd collection paints I will find the rest of the image.

General knowledge (1939)

“The Girl Guiding Book of Ideas” was published in 1939. It has many tips and tricks for successful girl guide meetings. One of the activities is a general knowledge quiz consisting of 75 questions.

I have sorted through these questions and picked 16 to make into a short quiz, try your hand at everyday facts from the thirties! To make it a bit easier I have made the questions multiple choice…Although the answers are only what was correct in the original book. (Please take all facts with several grains of salt)

The website linked below hosts the quiz and will ask you for a first and last name, you do not need to actually put your name in, it will except random letters.








Getting Started

I began collecting old books in 2015 when I found nine volumes of the children’s encyclopedia The Book of Knowledge in the basement of a local art school. As the books were not being used by the school the administration let me take them home. These books were from the art school’s past as an elementary school and were the Canadian 1921 edition.  This summer a woman was selling volumes of the american 1926 edition of The Book of Knowledge at local fairs. I now have 18 volumes in total.

Along with the books of knowledge I am focusing on a book of science for children from the late fifties, three girl guiding books with information on badges, songs, and dressing battle wounds, and ‘Enquire Within Upon Everything’ a book holding everything you need to know about life (provided you are an upper class Londoner in 1894).

In order to start reading these books I wanted to organize the contents, so that if I chose a specific topic to look into I would not have to flip through 23 books to find all mention of it. The encyclopedias are not organized alphabetically but by sections seemingly at random. My solution was to write out a detailed table of contents grouping topics together, which was a lot of work although I quite enjoyed doing it.

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Now that jumping between books is much easier I will begin reading.